“It’s all happening right here in Lynbrook and Long Beach — events and screenings that will appeal to the industry and general public alike,” said Craig Weintraub, founder of the annual Long Beach International Film Festival, a production of the nonprofit Long Beach Film Institute. “There’s something, literally, for everyone here.”
Filmmakers and elected officials gathered in the newly renovated Regal Lynbrook 13 & RPX, at 321 Merrick Road in Lynbrook, on Wednesday to kick off this year’s events. Organizers described the 7-year-old festival as a mix of arts and culture that celebrates film and food.
“Telluride and Park City — where [the] Sundance [Film Festival] is — have the mountains, but Long Beach has the sea,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “We’re so happy that we’re bringing the movie industry out to Long Island, and out to Nassau County.”
The four-day festival, from Aug. 1 to 4, was expected to attract more than 6,000 people, organizers said, and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local economy. “The film industry is so important to Nassau County’s economy, and it’s something we want to support,” said County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, the former Long Beach city manager.
More than 500 films were submitted this year from 14 countries, and organizers said they sifted through them to showcase the “cream of the crop.” The lineup includes feature-length narratives, documentaries, and short and animated movies from both professional and amateur filmmakers. Eight features, eight documentaries and 36 shorts will be featured.
The excitement kicked off Wednesday with a screening of a film called “Change in the Air,” directed by Lynbrook native Dianne Dreyer. Guests were invited on Thursday to “Chefs & Shorts,” an event that serves dinner and drinks inspired by short films at the Allegria Hotel, at 80 W. Broadway in Long Beach.
On Friday, “Taste on the Beach,” a culinary event that showcases samples from more than 40 Long Island restaurants, will take place at the Allegria, followed by “Shorts on the Beach,” in which short films will be screened at a custom-built movie theater on the sand.
The movie industry generates millions of dollars for the county, Curran said. Festivals like Long Beach’s show out-of-towners that Nassau is “the hip, cool, glitzy place where you want to be.”
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky agreed, saying that the annual festival creates a buzz and attracts people to local businesses. He also applauded filmmakers for spreading important messages about today’s social climate.
“There are some very powerful films about some important subjects that we get to watch in our local theaters, which is just something that’s so important,” Kaminsky said.
Long Beach native Brian Adamkiewicz is among the many filmmakers to present their work at the festival. He won Best Student Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year for his film “Build Ramps Not Walls,” which examines at President Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“Growing up in Long Beach and being able to screen my film for the first time in New York is an unreal dream come true,” Adamkiewicz said. The film “has more of a meaning than just skateboarding — it’s about the positive response to the negative rhetoric around the border wall.”
Additionally, East Rockaway native John Budion produced a film called “Rockaway,” which chronicles his experiences growing up in his hometown and plotting revenge against his abusive father. It will screen on the closing night of the festival. Tickets to the show sold out within 15 minutes of becoming available, Weintraub said.
A portion of the festival’s proceeds will benefit Cohen Children’s Medical Center and the Long Beach Soup Kitchen, he said.
“Just know that coming out and supporting the festival, we’re a nonprofit organization,” Weintraub said, “and all the funds that don’t go to putting on these events, go to great causes.”